Fashion provocateur Edwin Mohney makes experimental fantasy clothes
An exclusive look at the dresses designed for a new project in collaboration with photographer Edward Mulvihill.
The CSM graduate Edwin Mohney is best known for his outlandish silhouettes, headline-worthy creations (who remembers the inflatable swimming pool dress and those “Trumpettos” from his MA collection?) and bespoke outfits for the likes of like Beyoncé, Frank Ocean and Christina Aguilera . Over the past year however, forced to adapt by industry-wide challenges brought about by the pandemic, the Buffalo-born, LA-based fashion designer has demonstrated that there’s a whole lot more to the brand than that.
First came the avatar models, exploring the possibilities of a new frontier of digitally-led fashion. Then, in the midst of the pandemic, Edwin turned his hand to redesigning a line of PPE hospital wear for frontline workers, which addressed some of the shortfalls of existing uniforms. While Edwin’s work consistently displays great skill, it’s also the unpredictability of his trajectory which keeps it exciting: for his latest project, he’s teamed up with Australian photographer Edward Mulvihill on a book exploring the outer reaches of 3D modelling.
Responding to a series of imaginary fantasy-world renders created by Edward, Edwin has created six dresses united in their design approach and which will ultimately be photographed within these imagined settings. With the book due later this year, Edwin shared his new designs with i-D — shot by Edward on rising star Ajok — for an exclusive early preview.
We called Edwin for a chat about his new project and his desire to “catch the wind and turn any moment into an unforgettable experience”.
Edwin, how would you describe yourself and your work?
I would describe myself as an artist who works within the medium of fashion, costume and design. I love the multifaceted aspect of these disciplines and how they are ever-evolving. There’s always a new technique or a completely opposing skill to explore. One minute I can express myself through drawing, then sew a garment, experiment with resin, be on set, or just end up designing characters on my computer. The integration of all of these aspects feels generous and futuristic. I’m interested in forging a path at the intersection of all of my passions while remaining true to myself.
That makes so much sense in the context of your design. Your Instagram bio lists: couturier, costumer, artist, seamstress, tailor and stylist as your skills. Why limit yourself?!
Exactly. This description covers all the ideal versions of myself I see existing. One day I wake up and want to role play as Dior and Gaultier. The next day I’m channelling Rauschenberg. In order to produce good work, I think there’s an element of performance and pretend involved. It stems from how I would play as a kid and I think it always lightens my mood when making things.
What inspires you most?
Life, friends, love, and family. Of course there are always the literal references like imagery and music, but conversations with my best people inspire me more than anything.
How do you think growing up in America has influenced your work?
Surviving my teenage years really shaped me. I was consistently bullied and othered growing up as a queer, non-binary kid in rural America. I was too sensitive or too gay or too, dare I say, fabulous for the vanilla people. Creativity was my escape from those difficult growing pains and also a source of strength. Not much has changed in the way of my practice. I still use my work to manifest an idea and build a more beautiful present. I learned so much about my own tenacity, passion and identity through that experience.
The dresses here were made for your new project with photographer Edward Mulvihill. How did this come to life?
The planets and stars aligned. As many new endeavours begin, Edward and I were introduced on Instagram. I had admired his work for some time and he reached out with an idea for a collaboration. I was so excited! It really was something straight from the universe because when I learned more about Edward’s ideas, I realised I had already started on a dress that felt in line with his virtual and textural integration approach. I kept developing the initial dress idea into a few more and here we are.
How did you make them and what are they made from?
I’m a big vintage collector. My favourite thing to do, when there isn’t a pandemic, is to go vintage hunting. I have quite an archive of pleated and jersey pieces from experiments with stretching the fabric. I didn’t invent the technique, that was Pierre Cardin, but I created silhouettes that are my aesthetic by using sewn-on boning.
You’ve made clothes for some fabulous performers including Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé. Is this something you’ll continue to pursue?
The performative aspect of clothing is what inspired me from a young age. I was so excited by how a dress would change my mother’s mood or alter her actions. That felt like magic. I’m ultimately trying to aid the wearer in being the most confident version of themselves.
How would you describe what you’re trying to share with the world?
If I can make something that puts a smile on someone’s face or gives them life, that’s enough. Tastes change, my taste certainly does. I’m not interested in projecting my aesthetic in a deliberate way. Instead, I’m focused on catching the wind and turning a moment into an unforgettable experience. My intention is to bring people together with these experiences, whether they love it or not.